Houghton Holds First Commencement Celebration in Buffalo

May 24, 2022

Graduates and their families gathered at Buffalo’s historic Forbes Theater on Saturday, May 21, to celebrate Houghton University’s Class of 2022—the first Houghton Commencement celebration held in the City of Buffalo.

President Lewis delivering commencement address on the stage of Forbes Theater with purple and gold lights in the background

Limitless Future

The celebration marked a bright spot in a difficult week. Located within the King Urban Life Center, Houghton’s Buffalo location is situated around the corner from the site of the horrific mass shooting that took place earlier this month. Dr. Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., President of Houghton University, began his Commencement address by reading the names of the victims of the racially motivated attack.

“Ten beautiful, innocent lives who, at this time last week, we would have fully expected to be here with us,” said Lewis. “But a gunman, not of this community, fueled by a steady diet of racial hate, drove to a peaceful African American community in Buffalo to take lives.”

Lewis reflected on the nature of healing and the strength of the Buffalo community. “While the wound he inflicted was severe, and it will take time for this community to grieve and to heal, this community will in fact move forward. Buffalo is a strong community.”

Turning then to the graduates, Lewis recognized what the coming period of rebuilding would mean for them. Lewis noted how, in his own life, it required a deep understanding of God and who God had created him to be for him to overcome limitations, including internalized racism, that he acknowledged led a younger version of himself to question whether his gifts were comparable to those of others. “God has not limited your gifts and abilities. I don’t want you to put a single limitation on yourselves.”

For Fixing Up the World

At this first Commencement celebration in Buffalo, Lewis presented Charles (Chuck) and Claity Massey with the Willard J. Houghton Medal. This honor recognizes individuals who demonstrate what is possible when fulfilling the mantra of the College’s founder, Willard J. Houghton, who regularly signed his letters “Yours for fixing up the world” in the name of Jesus Christ. Chuck served as Dean of Students for Houghton’s Allegany County campus before becoming Dean of the West Seneca location, where programs were developed for adult learners, pastors and Houghton undergraduate students. Claity helped to save a historic former church building and adapted it for use as a model early childhood school. Now known as the King Urban Life Center, home to Houghton University in Buffalo, the center became the King Center Charter School, the first charter school in Buffalo. This became a model for 15 other charter schools serving nearly 8,000 students in the Buffalo area and led Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown to proclaim June 13, 2013, “Dr. Claity P. Massey Day.”

President Lewis with
Class of 2022 and faculty stand on steps while smiling at camera

Founded on the Rock

This year’s graduating class in Buffalo includes 22 students who earned their associate degrees from Houghton University Buffalo. “Amid our pain and grief as a Buffalo community, it was a remarkable gift and testament of hope to celebrate the achievements of this phenomenal and diverse class of scholars and community leaders,” said Julian Cook, Dean of Houghton University Buffalo. “This Saturday, as they already are to their families and loved ones, they were quite literally this community’s joy. With this well-trained, brilliant and reflective class at the leadership helm of our world, we are already made better.”

Patricia Davis and Jannatul Ferdoes Noshin delivered student reflections, celebrating this milestone in their lives, for their families and for their community. Noshin referenced Houghton’s official seal, which bears the motto, Founded on the Rock—an allusion to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7—in her remarks. “I am wise enough to build my house on the rock. Nothing can harm us if we are founded on the rock. That is what has led me to Houghton University: to be courageous and fearless.”

Fearless Beginnings

In marking this occasion for graduates and their families, Lewis affirmed Houghton’s commitment to the Buffalo community: “[Houghton Buffalo] exists to partner with this community to build an institution that provides a high-quality, Christian postsecondary degree option for this community and to help more students on Buffalo’s East Side to understand and realize their incredible, God-given potential. We are so thankful for the trust that you have given us in coming to pursue your education at Houghton Buffalo.”

Lewis concluded, “We want to continue to walk with you and support you as you walk into this next phase of your life and career.”

three students smile at camera at Houghton Buffalo commencement

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Standing With Buffalo

As you know, the City of Buffalo has suffered an unimaginable tragedy, losing ten souls at the hands of a gunman in an act of senseless violence. According to the ongoing investigation, it appears clear that it was racial hate that drove a young man to travel for hours to one of Buffalo’s historic African American neighborhoods for the purpose of taking beautiful, innocent lives and wreaking terror on a peaceful community…

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